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Saturday, 27 February 2010

Palm Court / Artesian at the Langham Hotel, Marylebone

While shoppers squabble on Oxford Street over the last available Mr Squiggles Go Go hamster in Christendom, I jump off the Christmas wheel preferring a decadent treat at the Langham’s remodeled Palm Court; or the Napalm Court as I dub it, all trace of frondy foliage now blitzed from the scene, sadly. In this glistering, airy salon, taking afternoon tea - and the p*** out of fellow guests’ curious sartorial choices - has been a tradition since 1865. It seems an endless supply of delish’ finger sandwiches (foie gras with passion fruit, hello!), all manner of Five Go Mad In Devon sweetmeats and Tregothnan tea grown in Cornwall (yes, really) served on ‘faihn’ bone china is never out of fashion. Brut bubbles - Krug ’95, say - come in elegant coupes that cost £50 a stem to manufacture. I’m a gibbering wreck; like Hyacinth Bucket’s neighbour Elisabeth, terrified I’ll knock the ruddy thing flying to the floor. The Bucket woman would commend the d├ęcor but to my eyes, it’s borderline Liz Hurley - expensive, splashy and well upholstered but a bit off the style money. This doesn’t deter cupcake and I from lingering for fully four hours. At around £50 each, it’s a solid investment; call it a gilt-y pleasure! Best watering hole at the Langham is Artesian, a David Colllins-designed den that's well groovy. The grand salon’s lofty froideur is warmed by Chinoiserie influences that include its focal point, a towering carved mahogany altar as back bar: seemingly plundered from a Shaolin temple. Smoky smudgy charcoal, bramble and lilac work well on neo-Chippendale furniture, while Op Art rugs and distressed faux skins - crocodile? lizard? Robert Kilroy-Silk? add quirky sophistication. When Collins does get trashy, as with matching metal horse head lamps on the bar, the result is never less than chic. Service is uniformly silver and martinis, solid gold. Test drives from a stellar rum-centric list - a Jerry’s Medicine and retro revival, Pina Colada - handle they should, when a signature cocktail stiffs you for fourteen quid (service not included). Pricey, sure! But chuck your loose change in the well, for Collins’s dreay vision is a wish come true.